Nationals stage epic comeback in 7-3, 10-inning win over Dodgers in NLDS Game 5

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The Nationals looked defeated for most of NLDS Game 5 against the Dodgers, but they staged a late comeback against the Dodgers’ bullpen to pull out a 7-3 victory in 10 innings on Wednesday night.

The Dodgers jumped on Stephen Strasburg early as Max Muncy swatted a two-run home run in the first inning and Kiké Hernández followed up with a solo shot in the second, staking Walker Buehler to a 3-0 lead. Strasburg would settle down from there, but Buehler outmatched him.

Buehler didn’t get into hot water until the fifth inning when Kurt Suzuki drew a leadoff walk and Michael A. Taylor grounded a single to center field, putting runners on first and second with no outs. Buehler, however, wriggled out of the jam by striking out Strasburg and Trea Turner, then getting Adam Eaton to fly out.

The Nationals finally got through against Buehler in the sixth as Anthony Rendon led off with a double and scored on Juan Soto‘s RBI single to right field.

Buehler got into more trouble in the seventh, leading off the inning by hitting Suzuki with a two-seam fastball that ran too far inside. Buehler, however, would strike out Taylor and get Asdrúbal Cabrera to line out. Turner drew a walk to extend the Nationals’ rally and with Buehler at 117 pitches, manager Dave Roberts decided to bring lefty Clayton Kershaw in as a reliever to face Eaton. The decision paid off as Kershaw struck out Eaton on three pitches to escape the seventh inning.

Buehler finished the night allowing the one run on four hits and three walks with seven strikeouts across 6 2/3 innings. Strasburg served up his three runs on six hits and a walk with seven strikeouts in six innings.

Kershaw returned to the mound for the eighth inning in what would be neither his Roberts’ finest hour. Rendon immediately greeted Kershaw with a solo homer to right field to make it 3-2. Soto followed up with a solo homer to right-center to tie the game. Roberts brought in Kenta Maeda, who proceeded to strike out the side.

Patrick Corbin worked a scoreless bottom of the eighth for the Nationals. Roberts sent Joe Kelly to the mound in the ninth. He worked a 1-2-3 inning. Daniel Hudson kept the game deadlocked at 3-3 with a scoreless bottom of the ninth to send the game into extra innings.

Roberts sent Kelly out for a second inning of work, another decision that would come back to haunt him. Kelly walked Eaton to start the frame, then Anthony Rendon hit a ground-rule double to left field. With first base open, Soto was intentionally walked, but Kendrick followed up by swatting a tie-breaking grand slam to center field, putting the Nationals up 7-3.

Sean Doolittle took the mound in the bottom half of the 10th. He struck out pinch-hitter A.J. Pollock, got Muncy to ground out, and Justin Turner to fly out to shallow center field on a nice diving play from Taylor. The play was reviewed but the call on the field was quickly upheld. The Nationals officially won their first playoff series.

For the first time since 1981, and for the first time since moving to D.C. and shedding the Expos name in 2005, the Nationals are in the NLCS. The Cardinals, who won Game 5 convincingly against the Braves earlier today, will have home field advantage, so the series will begin on Friday in St. Louis. The two sides last matched up in the postseason in the 2012 NLDS, which the Cardinals won in five games.

Astros claim AL pennant with walk-off win against the Yankees

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Following a rollercoaster performance on Saturday, the Astros clinched the American League Championship Series with a decisive 6-4 walk-off win against the Yankees, claiming their second AL pennant and earning a well-deserved entrance to the World Series.

Both clubs decided to preserve possible Game 7 starters Luis Severino and Gerrit Cole, electing to have a “bullpen day” for a pivotal Game 6. Chad Green took the mound for the Yankees, tossing one inning before handing the ball off to a long line of relievers, while Brad Peacock‘s rare playoff start was capped at 1 2/3 innings. According to ESPN Stats & Info, that made it the first postseason game since 1999 in which neither starting pitcher lasted two innings or longer.

All told, the two clubs utilized a total of 13 pitchers to make it through nine innings. The Astros lost Ryan Pressly to a worrisome knee injury in the third, but were able to lean on José Urquidy for 2 2/3 innings of one-run, five-strikeout ball. Although Yankees’ bullpen fought back in every inning, they had considerable difficulty recovering from Yuli Gurriel‘s three-run homer off of Green in the bottom of the first:

Still, New York managed to get in a couple of knocks as well: first, with Gary Sanchez‘s RBI single in the second inning, then with Gio Urshela‘s 395-foot blast in the fourth inning — the second of his postseason career to date. That wasn’t enough to close the gap, however, and Alex Bregman‘s productive groundout in the sixth helped cushion the Astros’ lead as they headed toward the final few innings of the series.

That lead started to look a little shaky in the ninth. Only three outs away from a ticket to the World Series, Houston closer Roberto Osuna gave up a leadoff single to Urshela, which was quickly followed by a jaw-dropping, full-count, game-tying two-run shot from DJ LeMahieu that barely cleared the right field fence.

With the threat of extra innings and a potential loss looming, the Astros engineered a last-minute rally to regain the lead and stake their claim for the pennant. With two outs and no runners on, George Springer took a five-pitch walk from Aroldis Chapman. In the next at-bat, Houston pinned their hopes on José Altuve — and he didn’t disappoint, lifting a 2-1 slider out to left field for a 406-foot, two-RBI homer that confirmed the Astros’ series win.

The 2019 World Series will mark the third Fall Classic appearance for the Astros and the first for the Nationals. It all begins on Tuesday night.